5 Tough Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

No matter how many powerful resources providing insight into personality and cognitive ability you use for recruiting, the interview remains an important tool for identifying the best candidates. Getting the most out of these meetings depends on several factors, including the skill of the interviewer and the quality of the questions you ask candidates. Here are five challenging interview questions that let you dig deeper and learn more about the candidates you interview.

  1. “Give me your best sales pitch for one of our premier products or services.”

No matter what type of position the candidate is applying for, it’s always a good sign when he or she can speak enthusiastically about your company’s products.

For one thing, it reveals how much research candidates have done regarding your company. If they aren’t very familiar with what you do, this question will quickly make that apparent. Furthermore, it gives them a chance to show their support (or lack thereof) for your company and its products.

  1. “Describe a previous position where you achieved significant professional growth and made a solid contribution to the company. Give me some specific reasons to support this.”

The best employees don’t remain stagnant but are always seeking to grow and improve. Asking for specific examples of how someone progressed in previous positions tells you something not only about the candidate’s history but also if he or she tends to improve or grow over time within a company or is content to stay in one place. It also gives people a chance to boast about promotions or amazing accomplishments. You can tell when people are fudging it, such as by taking credit for something that they didn’t personally accomplish.

  1. “Who was your least favorite manager to work under? What do you think he or she would list as your number one shortcoming?”

Many hiring managers ask the dreaded question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” The problem with such a question is that it gives the candidate a chance to humblebrag with answers such as, “I’m a perfectionist.” When you ask for a critical manager’s opinion, however, you’re forcing candidates to come up with a truly unflattering characteristic. Of course, this manager’s opinion might be biased and unfair, but it’s still interesting to find out what such a person might say (or what the candidate thinks they’d say). It’s also a test to spot candidates who are bitter about experiences at previous positions.

  1. “Why do you think that your skills, experience, and personality are a good match for the company culture at this firm?”

You’re not only looking for someone with talents and relevant experience but who’s a good fit for your company in particular. To answer such a question accurately, of course, candidates must know something about your company culture. Unprepared interviewees will talk about how they’d be good at their jobs. You’re looking for something more comprehensive here, proof that the person has taken the time to research your company’s values. Questions that speak specifically about your business’s culture help you identify people who are looking for a job where they leave everything behind at 5 p.m. from those who are seeking to immerse themselves in their career.

  1. “If you are hired for this position, walk me through a typical day at our company and how you’ll approach carrying out X, Y, or Z.”

Asking a candidate to describe a typical day obviously requires some creative guesswork as they can’t be expected to know exactly how their days will proceed at a future position. However, it gives you insight into how comfortable they are talking about their area of expertise. If the current position requires a specific skill, such as a certain programming language, you can see if they’re as experienced with it as their resume may have suggested. It’s also another question that tells you how much research candidates have done for your company. If they have no clear idea of what you do, they’ll have trouble imagining a typical day there.

These are some of the best interview questions to ask if you want to gain valuable insights into candidates’ personalities, goals, and level of commitment. Keep in mind that the way people answer (e.g., facial expressions, hesitation, body language, the tone of voice) is just as important as the actual answers. You can spot telltale signs of bad hires for example, if they show little knowledge or interest in your company or if they have a resentful attitude about previous positions. Interviews are one of your best tools for sifting through applicants and identifying the cream of the crop.